On April 12, Sky Harper became the second student in Drexel history to win the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Recipients of this prestigious award have demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to public service throughout their undergraduate education that they plan to continue through their careers. Currently, there are over 3,300 Truman Scholars who work in a range of places from the West Wing to the Armed Forces. In 2023, the Truman Foundation received 705 applications from 275 institutions across the country. 199 of these college juniors were then selected to interview with the Foundation’s Regional Review Panels before the Foundation narrowed down its competitive applicant pool to 62 scholars.
Yet Harper’s unique skills and work ethic made him stand out among the many talented applicants, and not for the first time After earning both the Goldwater Scholarship for STEM students pursuing careers in research and the Udall Scholarship for public service and commitment to issues of Native American nations in 2022, Harper’s addition of the Truman Scholarship completes the coveted triad of scholarships distinguishing a triple-crown scholar, making him the first in Drexel’s history.
A week before the scholars were formally announced, Harper received unofficial word of his selection from John Fry, who had been notified by the Truman Foundation. Recalling the moment he learned of his achievement, Harper explained, “I just sat there because it didn’t feel real to me.”
A few weeks earlier and one day after taking the MCAT, Harper flew out to his home state of Arizona for his finalist interview. In a crammed waiting room, he watched the other candidates nervously pacing back and forth in anticipation of their appearances before the Arizona Attorney General and First District Judge of Arizona, amongst other high-profile public servants. Remaining calm and collected during a nail-biting wait and a high-stakes interview, Harper still ponders one question posed: Why Drexel?
“No one else was asked about their undergraduate institution,” shared Harper, wondering if the interview panel was really asking: “As a motivated and accomplished student, why would you go to a university without the highest prestige?”
Despite the numerous offers Harper received in the college application process, he defends his decision of choosing the school that chose him. During his junior year of high school, Harper received a full-tuition scholarship from Drexel for his work in the sciences.
“Drexel supported me before any other school. I don’t understand why I wouldn’t be thankful for that and take their offer,” he explained.
It is clear that Harper’s dedication fostered by a Drexel education served him well. At the end of the interview process, Harper recalls the judge who exited with a “Goodbye, Sky,” after uttering a plethora of nameless farewells. “That was my little sliver of hope I was holding onto,” he said afterwards.
As a Truman Scholar, Harper has the opportunity to participate in the Truman Summer Institute, where he hopes to intertwine his specialty in STEM with new experience in public policy and civil service by working in the Department of the Interior.
Looking further ahead, Harper intends to enroll in an MD/PhD program and then work for the National Institute of Health to gain experience in community-based research. In the long term, he aspires to return to his community in Arizona to establish research centers that Native American tribes often lack.
Ambitious and industrious like the school he hails from, Sky Harper plans to continue proudly representing Drexel.